Chronology


August 4, 1910

Born Hedwig Lindenberg on August 4 in Bucharest, Romania, the second child of Simon and Eugenie Lindenberg.

1914 – 1924

As a young child, Hedda is educated in art and languages, reading classic literary texts in German, French, and English, art history books, and monographs of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, and others.

At age 8, begins art lessons at the encouragement of artist M. H. Maxy, who has remarked on her drawing to Hedda's father. Sculptor Frederic Storck becomes her first teacher.

1924 – 1926

Introduced to Constructivist and early Surrealist art by friend Victor Brauner. His abstract portrait "Hedei" ("to Hedda") is published in Brauner’s in single-issue, Constructivist/proto-Surrealist magazine 75HP, and featured on his 1924 exhibition invitation.

Works in the atelier of Marcel Janco. Attends exhibitions and reads avant-garde publications, such as Contimporanual and La Révolution surrealiste, and later Documents and Minotaure.

Hedda and her brother Eduard Lindenberg, c. 1914

1927 – 1932

Travels frequently to Vienna and Paris. In Paris, Hedda attends classes in the ateliers of André Lhote and Fernand Léger, and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. 

In 1929, begins studying philosophy and art history at the University of Bucharest.

1932

Marries Friederich (Fritz) Stern in October. The couple travel frequently between Bucharest and Paris throughout the decade. Hedda continues her artistic practice and follows the bourgeoning Surrealist movement in Paris.  

1938

Included in the 11th annual Salon des Surindépendants, where her collages draw the attention of Jean Arp and Peggy Guggenheim.

1939

In the spring, included in the Société des Artistes Indépendants' 50th annual Salon des Indépendants in Paris.

In September, leaves France to return to her family in Bucharest in the lead up to World War II.

Hedda Sterne modeling a dress of her own design, published in the Viennese magazine Die Bühne in October 1932  |  from the Archives of The Hedda Sterne Foundation, New York

1940

Fritz Stern leaves for the U.S. on business, where he will remain. Despite attempts to obtain the visas necessary to join him, Hedda is still in Bucharest when Romania joins axis forces on November 23, 1940.

January 1941

Witnesses the Romanian Iron Guard Revolt and Bucharest Pogrom, which begins close to her home on January 21. Renews her efforts to obtain visas for passage to the U.S.

October 1941

After months of effort to obtain all necessary permissions for passage to the U.S., and with help from her husband abroad, Hedda travels across war-torn Europe from Bucharest to Lisbon, where she departs for New York on October 17 aboard the SS Excambion.

December 1941

Reunited in the U.S., Fritz and Hedda change their German-sounding surname from "Stern" to "Stafford." Hedda, however, soon begins exhibiting her work as "Hedda Sterne," adding an “e” to the end of her former married name.  In this way, she maintains a connection to the name she exhibited under in Europe.  

Hedda Sterne's 1941 Romanian Passport | from the Archives of The Hedda Sterne Foundation, New York

1942

Establishes a studio in New York on East 50th Street, and becomes close friends with her neighbors, Peggy Guggenheim and Max Ernst, as well as other ex-patriots including as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Meets many artists through Guggenheim, including Piet Mondrian, Frederick Kiesler, Marcel Duchamp, and André Breton.

Included in her first group exhibition in the U.S., First Papers of Surrealism, at Whitelaw Reid Mansion, New York (October 14 - November 7), curated by Marcel Duchamp and André Breton as a benefit for the Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies. Continues her work in collage, and begins a new series of paintings inspired by children's art, focusing on memories of her childhood in Romania.

1943

Peggy Guggenheim begins exhibiting Sterne’s work at Art of This Century gallery, in shows such as 31 Women. Meets Betty Parsons, who will become her long-time galleriest and close friend. Sterne's first solo exhibition in the U.S. is held at Wakefield Gallery in November.

In February, meets artist and fellow Romanian émigré, Saul Steinberg.  Steinberg is commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and soon departs on active duty. They correspond regularly over the following year.

Hedda Sterne and her painting, c. 1943

1944

In summer 1944, Sterne travels to Reno to finalize her divorce from Fritz Stafford. She and Steinberg marry on October 11, 1944 after his return from active duty.

1945

Solo exhibition held in May at Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York.

1946

Solo exhibition opens January 23 at Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York.  

After becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen on April 29, returns to Europe for the first time since WWII, visiting family and friends in France. She and Steinberg will continue to spend many months at a time in Europe over the next decade to travel and visit their families.

1947

Solo exhibition held in November at the newly-established Betty Parsons Gallery, New York. Sterne is one of 16 artists represented by the gallery at its founding, alongside friends and colleagues such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Ad Reinhardt. 

Begins a series of work based on machines, inspired by the anthropomorphic qualities of farm equipment seen on a trip to Vermont, and the omni-present construction of the post-war building boom.

Hedda Sterne and Saul Steinberg, c. 1944-45 | photograph by George Platt Lynes; © Estate of George Platt Lynes

1948

Solo exhibition opens November 29 at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

1950

Solo exhibition held in February at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.  

Named one of the country's best artists under age 36 in March 20 issue of LIFE magazine. (Sterne’s biography with the Betty Parsons gallery and many subsequent publications erroneously list her birth year as 1916, an error she will feel unable to correct until she is in her late 90s.)

In April, participates in roundtable discussion at Artists' Sessions at Studio 35, New York. Sterne is one of 28 artists to sign the May 20 open letter to the president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, protesting the museum’s aesthetically conservative group-exhibition juries.

Solo exhibition opens on December 18 at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

1951

An article about the 1950 open letter to the Metropolitan Museum is featured in the January 15 issue of LIFE magazine. Sterne is among 15 of the 28 artist signatories photographed by Nina Leen for the article. The image is subtitled “Irascible Group of Advanced Artists,” and will become a frequently referenced portrait of New York School painters.  

LIFE magazine publishes the feature "Steinberg and Sterne" in the August 27 issue.

1952

Solo exhibition held in March at Gump's Gallery, San Francisco.

In September, Sterne and Steinberg travel to South America, and attend the opening of their joint solo exhibitions at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil.

Roundtable discussion at Artists' Sessions at Studio 35, New York, 1950 | Sterne appears in the bottom left corner, seated between Robert Goodnough and David Hare 

1953

Solo exhibition held in April at Galleria dell' Obelisco, Rome.

"Seven Painters and a Machine" appears in the June issue of Fortune magazine, featuring paintings of Joy Manufacturing Company’s new "continuous miner" machine by Sterne, Antonio Frasconi, Matta, Walter Tandy Murch, Ben Shahn, Saul Steinberg, and Rufino Tamayo.

1954

Solo exhibition opens October 18 at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

Begins series of paintings based on the roads, bridges, and structures of New York City, and begins using commercial spray paint to express speed and movement.

“Irascible Group of Advanced Artists Led Fight against Show” in the January 15, 1951 issue of LIFE magazine

1955

Moderates "The Psychology of Imagery in Abstract Art Today" on November 6, a "Four O’Clock Forum" discussion with artists Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Seymour Lipton.

1956

Solo exhibitions held at Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, in January and Saidenberg Gallery, New York, in February.  

Sterne's painting New York (1955) is shown at the American Pavilion exhibition of the XXVIII Venice Biennale, "American Artists Paint the City" curated by Katharine Kuh.   

In the summer, travels cross-country with Steinberg, driving through the northern U.S. mountain states to the West Coast, and through British Columbia to ferry to Alaska. On their return, they drive south through California, across the southwest desert states and into northern Mexico, the southern U.S., and north along the mid-Atlantic coastline. Sterne soon begins a new series of work inspired by the journey, a meditation on the roads and horizons.

1957

Solo exhibition opens February 18 at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

Hedda Sterne in her studio, c. 1950 | photograph © Gjon Mili

1958

Solo exhibition held in October at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

1960

Sterne and Steinberg separate; they will remain close friends and never officially divorce.  

Begins to depart from the gestural abstraction she had explored throughout the 1950s in favor of new challenges and explorations. Throughout the decade, she will alternate between intricate organic forms in her "Lettuces" and "Baldanders" series, and her medatative and linear "Vertical Horizontals" series.

1961

Solo exhibitions held at Galleria dell' Obelisco, Rome, in March and at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, in November.  

"The Artist in the Tractor Works" in the July issue of Fortune magazine features seven paintings by Sterne, commissioned by Fortune magazine, of her impressions of tractor parts at John Deere & Co. factories in Illinois.

Hedda Sterne photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1961 | photograph © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

1962

Receives the Guri Seaver Memorial Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago's 65th American Exhibition, for the painting Horizontal No. 2.

1963

Solo exhibition opens November 26 at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

Awarded a Fulbright fellowship in painting; lives and works in Venice, Italy over the next year and a half, working on the series Vertical-Horizontals, and experimenting with mosaic.

1964

Begins working in ink on paper, creating several new bodies of work exploring organic formations, from swarming insects to lettuce leafs. From the 1960s forward, drawing will become a more integral part of her artistic practice leading to dozens of new series.  

1966

Solo exhibition held in February at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

Buys a house in East Hampton, where she will live from May to October until the late 1990s. Begins meditating daily, a practice that becomes important for the rest of her life.

1967

In May and June, Sterne is in residence at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles. Completes a series of 28 lithographs, including the suite "Metaphors and Metamorphoses." 

Hedda Sterne in her studio with paintings from her Vertical-Horizontal series, c. 1964 | photograph by Théodore Brauner

1968

Solo exhibitions held at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, opening January 23, and at Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton, in June.

In connection with Katherine Kuh's "Workshop in Looking" project for the New York State Council on the Arts, conducts weekly instructional sessions for schoolteachers in Freeport, NY. 

1969

Begins a series of anonymous portraits inspired by her observation that faces and features vary and repeat. The series, which she calls "Everyone," becomes a large-scale installation, and is an expansion of her long-running interest in portraits, which in the past she had often made of friends but rarely exhibited.

1970

Solo exhibition held in April at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.  "Everyone" paintings are exhibited as a large-scale installation, with un-stretched canvases hung from the gallery walls and ceilings.

Hedda Sterne's "Everyone" series installed in her home in 1969 | photograph by Duane Michaels

1971

Receives Childe Hassam Purchase Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York.

1972

Solo exhibition held in March at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

1974

Solo exhibition held in February at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York.

1975

Dual solo exhibitions held in October at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, and Lee Ault & Company, New York.

1977

First retrospective exhibition mounted at Montclair Art Museum, April through June.

Hedda Sterne in her studio with her portrait of Joan Mitchell (1955), 1976 | photograph by Lillian Bristol

1980

Begins a new, highly mediative body of work that will become one of her longest sustained explorations, focusing on architectural and geometric space, the passage of light, and the power of signs and symbols.

1982

Solo exhibition held in March at CDS Gallery, New York.

1984

Solo exhibition held in March at CDS Gallery, New York.  

Receives Hassam and Speicher Purchase Fund Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York.

1985

Second retrospective exhibition mounted at the Queens Museum, New York, February through April.

1987

Solo exhibition held at CDS Gallery, New York.

Hedda Sterne's studio, 1983 | photograph by Denise Browne Hare

1990

Solo exhibition held in May at CDS Gallery, New York.

Begins returning to organic forms, expanding the language of form she has developed throughout the 1980s in her "Patterns of Thought" series, allowing indications of trees, branches, figures and forms to interrupt strong vertical and horizontal lines.

1993

Solo exhibition opens January 23 at Philippe Briet Gallery, New York.

1995

Solo exhibition held in February and March at CDS Gallery, New York.

Philippe Briet Gallery publishes La revolution dans l’arboretum, a collaboration between Sterne and poet Michel Butor.

Hedda Sterne at her retrospective exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art, 1985

1997

Macular degeneration causes Sterne to cease painting. She begins drawing exclusively, creating one of her most prolific bodies of work: drawings inspired by her changing field of vision.

1998

Solo exhibitions held in February and March at CDS Gallery, New York, and in April at the Bibliothèque Municipale, Ville de Caen, France.

1999

Awarded Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, by the Ambassade de France aux États Unis, New York.

2000

Solo exhibition held September through November at CDS Gallery, New York.

2004

Solo exhibition held in March and April at CDS Gallery, New York.

Suffers stroke on December 1. Makes a remarkable recovery but her eyesight significantly worsens, limiting her ability to draw.

2006

Third retrospective exhibition held January through March at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign. The exhibition travels to the University of Virginia, where is it on view January through March, 2007.

August 4, 2010

Celebrates her centenary at her home in New York surrounded by friends and family.

April 8, 2011

Hedda Sterne dies peacefully in her home in New York at age 100.

Portrait of Hedda Sterne, 6 February 1992 | photograph by Barbara Yoshida, © Barbara Yoshida